US greets talk of NK nuke concessions with hope, skepticism

People in this frontier town fear they could be caught in the middle of a nuclear standoff between the United States and North Korea if Pyongyang were to step up its nuclear and missile tests that could reach the U.S. mainland.

"The main concern is that South Korea may have jumped too easily to a proposal by North Korea for a bilateral meeting", said a former senior Japanese diplomat who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The North Korean government was behind the assassination of leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother with the chemical weapon VX, the US has said, imposing fresh sanctions on Pyongyang.

But it would be churlish not to also recognize the contribution of the "bad cop": U.S. President Donald Trump, who has turned up the heat on North Korea with ever tighter rounds of sanctions, and badgered historic ally China to isolate the 25 million-strong Stalinist state.

North Korea's willingness to hold a "candid dialogue" with the United States to discuss denuclearization and establish diplomatic relations follows a year of increased fears of war on the Korean Peninsula, with Kim and Trump exchanging fiery rhetoric and crude insults over Kim's barrage of weapons tests.

With the specter of two past summits that failed to blunt North Korea's nuclear ambitions, South Korean officials planning talks next month now face the thorny task of overcoming familiar sticking points with the threat of war looming over any failure.

Chung is the highest ranking South Korean official to visit the North since Kim came to power in 2011.

It's been a tough, costly year for North Korea.

It fell apart after the US accused the isolated state of covertly restarting its weapons programme and aid delays angered Pyongyang, which eventually stormed out.

The meeting, at the village of Panmunjom in April, will be only their third summit since the Korea war ended in 1953.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated
US greets talk of NK nuke concessions with hope, skepticism

He said the North's intentions must be confirmed through "mutual agreements made in the negotiation process and their fulfilment". Such threats have been roundly - and rightly - criticized as risking nuclear catastrophe, though there's little doubt Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken notice, especially when Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford visited the border area in August and established three-star communication channels with the Chinese military to avoid accidental clashes in the event of a conflict.

"The United States has maintained that the term 'denuclearization' is needed for talks and it appears the North has responded to that", he said.

North Korea didn't announce what South Korea on Tuesday described as agreements between the rivals.

"I believe they are sincere". "I intensely dislike it, and it comes from my childhood", Winfrey explained.

The new development is that Kim will begin talks without preconditions, though it remains to be seen if the United States would agree to denuclearization shifting from a precondition to a goal.

Washington has been leading diplomatic efforts to ramp up international pressure on North Korea. They will test the line with a phone call before the summit.

The State Department announcement said the U.S. had formally determined Feb. 22 that North Korea was responsible for ordering the killing and that the sanctions took effect Monday.

The explosion created a magnitude-6.3 tremor, making it the most powerful weapon Pyongyang has ever tested. The North also made clear that there is no reason for them to possess nuclear weapons as long as military threats to the North are eliminated and the regime's security is guaranteed.

North Korea denies any involvement. At its height, the complex employed tens of thousands of North Koreans. "Even then, North Korea was faking a peace offensive and developing nukes".